If I described a weekend event featuring more than 200 bands, 30 stages, 20 vendors and loads of other activities, you might automatically think Coachella, but you’d be way wrong. It’s the free, two-day Deutschtown Music Festival, going down July 14-15 on the North Side.
Although it’s grown exponentially since its inception as a still-ambitious 47-band bill, the festival, now in its fifth year, is still put together solely by co-founders Ben Soltesz and Cody Walters, as well as “the guy who books the bands,” Hugh Twyman.
“We call it our full-time job that doesn’t pay us,” Walters tells City Paper. “What I find most amazing is that as we continue to grow, we’re attracting such amazing people.
“Close to 20,000 people last year and not a stitch of litter, and no arrests — which was fantastic.”
In addition to the musical acts that include jazz, blues, rock, folk, bluegrass and electronic performances, Walters stressed the importance of the festival in helping Pittsburgh businesses and organizations thrive. For example, six months ago the performance space at Pittsburgh Winery was unexpectedly shut down by building inspectors, so Walters gave them two stages to help them recover.
“They’re a much-loved part of the music scene. … Anything we can do to help [them], we wanted to do that,” he says.
Walters is also excited about a pop-up bike shop offering bike repairs during the festival; a mysterious Sofar Sounds stage (which provides secret, intimate gigs); a massive drum corps; and a variety of other activities. For the event organizers, all of this work is done out of love for Deutschtown and all it has to offer.
“Continuing to nurture the live scene here in Pittsburgh [is] really our number-one goal,” Walters says. “The three of us aren’t taking a penny of this until we’re able to properly pay bands. That’s a goal we’re working toward.”
But for now, the trio is content providing a quality event for area residents. Adds Walters, “Be a neighbor that Fred Rogers would be proud of. That’s what we’re saying when we invite people to this fest.”